Q: The federal deficit has increased each year since 2016, according to government data, after declining from the high in response to the 2008-09 Great Recession. The government last had a surplus in 2001. Beginning in 2016, increases in spending on Social Security, health care, and interest on the federal debt have outpaced the growth of federal revenue, according to the government’s tracking website. What do you propose for reducing the deficit?
A: The best way to reduce the deficit is to continue to enact policies that grow our economy, like resource development and streamlining job-killing regulations. Prior to the pandemic, our country’s economy was booming and federal revenues were rising – and so were jobs and wages. We need to ensure strong economic growth as we come out of the pandemic. We also need to change Congress’ dysfunctional budget process, get rid of redundant spending, put Social Security and Medicare on a fiscally sustainable path, and bring down skyrocketing health care costs — all of which I’ve worked on as your senator.
Q: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with President Trump’s COVID-19 response? Explain
A: I’ve worked closely with this administration on comprehensive COVID-19 legislation, like the CARES Act, which includes many provisions for Alaska. I successfully advocated for greater access to telehealth, more tests, accelerated vaccine development, and significant relief funds for our fishermen, small businesses, working families, tribes, schools and health care facilities—like Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. We can always improve. On health issues, the President should defer to his medical experts.
Q: Explain your view on climate change. Is it a problem and what, if anything, should Congress do to address the issue?
A: There’s no doubt that climate change is impacting communities throughout Alaska. However, I will fight against job-killing proposals like the Green New Deal, which would crush Alaska’s economy. I will continue to support policies that harness American ingenuity and incentivize innovative research to advance our current and future energy technologies. In fact, such innovations, which have increased production of natural gas, are already decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Q: President Trump has made clear he wants to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. Do you support DACA or do you share President Trump’s desire to eliminate the “Dreamers” program? Explain.
A: I have long said that Congress should take action to address the DREAMERS. In 2018, I voted for an amendment that, combined with important provisions such as border security and the permanent reauthorization of E-Verify, would have provided a pathway to citizenship for those DACA eligible individuals brought to the U.S. as minors. I continue to believe that congressional action is the best way forward.
Q: The Supreme Court recently ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s protections against sex discrimination in the workplace protects LGBTQ individuals against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Do you agree with this ruling? Explain.
A: The principle this decision focused on I have long agreed with: Americans shouldn’t be able to be fired from a job simply because of their religion, race or sexual orientation. I am committed to the principle of non-discrimination and enforcement of laws providing equality for all Americans.
Q: In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the end of May, large-scale reforms in law enforcement and policing are being called for across the country. What changes, if any, would you like to see? Does Congress have a role in the subject?
A: I believe the vast majority of our public safety officers are honorable. But in the wake of the horrendous killing of George Floyd, it’s apparent that reforms are needed. I was an original cosponsor of the JUSTICE Act, a groundbreaking bill that would implement commonsense reforms like ending chokeholds. Unfortunately, a partisan minority of Democratic senators blocked this bill from even being debated. We’ll continue to address this important issue.
Q: Nearly one-third of the Interior rural communities represented by Tanana Chiefs Conference have no running water village-wide. This is the case for many rural villages across the state. What steps would you take to improve village sanitation?
A: Getting running water to rural communities is one of my top priorities. In 2016, my first major bill to become law was a $300 million water and wastewater grant program for small communities. In May, the Environment and Public Works Committee passed my bill authorizing another $500 million for small communities and those without water facilities and reauthorized the Alaska Nave Village and Rural Communities Water Grant Program at $40 million for two years.
Q: While drilling projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska are moving forward, Alaska is seeing a drop in oil company activity in the state. What, if anything, should Congress do to incentivize oil development in Alaska?
A: Prior to the pandemic, the North Slope was experiencing one of its best exploration seasons in recent memory. With ANWR and NPR-A, we have enormous job, energy, and revenue opportunities for Alaska. However, we’re at a crossroads. If Joe Biden wins the presidency and Chuck Schumer becomes Senate majority leader, they will shut down ANWR and stop production in NPR-A, killing thousands of Alaska jobs and threatening our future.
Q: Alaska faces some of the worst rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in the country, particularly in the state’s Indigenous population. What, if anything, should Congress do to address the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and missing and murdered Indigenous women?
A: Domestic violence and sexual abuse are our most destructive social problems. Combating this problem was my top priority as Alaska’s attorney general. In the Senate, I have authored and passed legislation to provide more legal resources to victims and survivors, with a particular focus on Alaska Natives. I’m now working on a sweeping bill that, among other things, will guarantee a right to a lawyer for survivors.
Q: Do you support the Affordable Care Act or do you think the program should be repealed? If you support repealing it, what, if anything, should replace it?
A: I was against the ACA from the beginning because I believed it wouldn’t deliver affordable, quality care for Alaskans — which proved true. What I have been focused on is successfully eliminating the most egregious, harmful elements of the ACA — like the individual mandate and the Cadillac tax — while saving provisions like mandated coverage for preexisting conditions. I will strongly oppose a government takeover of our health care system.
Q: The percentage of Alaska’s total population that is age 65 and older is increasing. The Social Security trust fund is projected to be depleted in 2035 because the cost of providing benefits has been exceeding income. Without any change, the depletion would lead to a reduction in benefits to match the income. What is your suggested solution, if any?
A: Social Security is a vital program for seniors in Alaska and our country, and I am focused on ensuring it can serve its purpose for years to come. When reforms are debated in the Senate, I will work to ensure that not only current beneficiaries get the benefits that they were promised but also that future generations who’ve worked hard and paid into the program also have access to it.
Q: The University of Alaska has one of the smallest federal land grants among public universities in the 50 states. For a variety of reasons it has never received all of the land it is supposed to have received, thereby limiting the amount of money it can raise through land ownership. Several attempts in Congress to provide additional land have failed since the mid-1990s. What will you do about this?
A: I regularly meet with the Board of Regents and have collectively worked with them on solutions with the state and Bureau of Land Management. I’ve also been working with the university and Senator Murkowski on new legislation that could achieve our goals. I am strong supporter of the university and will continue to work on this potential new legislation to help the university fully realize the promise of its federal land grant.
Q: More Russian military activity near Alaska Air Defense Zones and U.S. waters has recently been reported than is typical. Does this concern you? What, if anything, should the U.S. do in response? Explain.
A: It’s clear that Russia is heavily investing in the Arctic. That’s why I’ve fought hard to ensure we can project power and defend our nation by reversing massive troop cuts at JBER, delivering two squadrons of F35s to Eielson, authorizing six polar class icebreakers, pushing the DoD to update their Arctic Strategies, authorizing over $1.6 billion in military construction, and advancing the construction of a Strategic Arctic Port.
Q: Would you support the free distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to all U.S. residents? How would this be paid for? Explain.
A: I have led efforts in the Senate to ensure a vaccine is developed and successfully advocated for the creation of a task force whose sole focus is creating a vaccine. I fully support free distribution when a vaccine is available. Congress has already allocated billions in funding to speed up developing and distributing a vaccine to Americans. The State is currently working on submitting their distribution plan to the CDC.
Q: In what ways, if any, should the country decrease reliance on oil and gas in favor of more renewable sources of energy? Explain.
A: I’m in favor of an all of the above energy strategy that must include a robust oil and gas sector in Alaska. Energy decisions should be based on what energy sources are available, affordable, reliable, and sustainable for the region in which they will be deployed. Our state is a prime example of how deploying hydropower, geothermal, and wind can power communities with renewable energy, reduce costs, and limit emissions.
Q: The Trump administration recently announced a plan to open the full 1.65 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing, sparking a series of lawsuits from environmental protection groups and the Gwich’in Nation over alleged violations of Indigenous land rights. Do you feel the Gwich’in people should have been directly consulted by the Bureau of Land Management on this issue? Explain.
A: I played a critical role in the passage of 2017 legislation that finally opened ANWR. The current process has been open, fair, and democratic to unlock the 1002 area to development. We have the highest standards in Alaska, and I know we can deliver on the promises of ANILCA while protecting and benefiting the communities that live and rely on the 1002 area.